Columbus Tap – Local Beer and Lamb Burgers in the Windy City
By Caroline Culbertson
Blustery, frigid afternoons are no rarity in Chicago; and, on such a day, my companion and I found ourselves being blown through the revolving door into Columbus Tap in the Fairmont Chicago. Brilliant white subway tiles and gleaming marble floors presented a crisp background for earthy leather dining chairs at deep golden wood tables and a brick accent wall, emblazoned with the taproom’s logo. The room had a 1960s throwback feel, thanks to the retro light fixtures and bold accents of peacock blue and terracotta, but the central bar kept things modern with flat-screen TVs and gleaming stainless fixtures. With high tables near the bar and traditional dining tables across the dining room, Columbus Tap offered a polished atmosphere for a Friday business lunch, while also keeping things casual enough to drop in to watch the game over drinks and a bite.
As expected from a taproom, Columbus Tap had 16 local beers on tap, 15 of which are from the local Chicagoland area, as well as 40 bottled options, a nicely balanced wine list, and a selection of craft cocktails that round out a three-page beverage menu, dwarfing their list of lunchtime offerings. I chose their Citrus Ssaison, curiously titled When Life Gives You Kumquats. A custom brew created in partner with Maplewood Brewery in Logan Square, it had a lot of Spice, Pomelo Citrus, a peppery brightness and a surprising creaminess reminiscent of a porter or stout, despite it being classified as a Farmhouse Ale.
Turning our sights towards lunch, we discovered a fantastic blend of traditional pub fare and modern American cuisine at Columbus Tap. We chose their Whole Chicken Wings, and they weren’t exaggerating when they put “addictive dry rub” in the wings’ description! Deliciously smoky and wonderfully sweet-and-spicy, the Crisp Skin was covered in a crunchy layer of Dry Rub, and the sweetness in the House-Made Hot Sauce lulled me into a false sense of security. Initially, it presented itself as a mild, Thai-style sweet chili sauce, with an added vinegar kick, but then the heat crept in. Before long, I found myself reaching for beer to put out the fire!
We then turned our attention to entrees. My companion, in a carnivorous mood, chose the Lamb Burger. With earthy Horseradish Mustard, Sweet Onion Jam and a mountain of chunky Blue Cheese Aioli, the Moroccan-spiced burger was packed with richness and flavor. To contrast the indulgent burger, my friend wisely chose the Side Salad in their House-Made Dressing – a bright, citrus vinaigrette.
As tempted as I was to pick from the “Brunch and Bloodies” list, with Maple Pork Belly Bacon and Eggs, Roasted fruit-laden Pancakes, and the chance to build my own Bloody Mary, I couldn’t resist the Grilled Salmon Salad. It sounds like I goofed my priorities on this one, but when I saw “pastrami spice,” I knew I had to have it. The vibrant, peppery Pastrami Seasoning on buttery Grilled Salmon brought the Chickpea Dressing to life. Bright and vinegary, the dressing and marinated Artichokes highlighted the sweetness of crisp Market Lettuces and Roasted Tomatoes. A touch of Creamy Quinoa alongside the salmon softened the sharp edges of the lemony vinaigrette and fresh radishes, perfectly rounding out the salad.
They don’t have dessert available during lunchtime hours, so I will definitely be heading back to see what Columbus Tap’s dinner menu has to offer! Columbus Tap is open from 11:30 a.m. to midnight daily.